The Call That Changed My Career

Preface – I wanted to apologize in advance if this goes against any of the sub rules. It’s not exactly a happy moment for me, but I’m a little tipsy and really needed to get this off my back. I used to work in a call center, dealing with technical support issues. It wasn’t a bad gig by any means, most customers were fantastic and the time would fly by (arguably a bonus over my current job, slow days seem to drag on forever now). Plus it paid more than most entry level jobs in my area and got my foot in the door in my current industry.

I like to like to think that I’m a friendly person. My coworkers often rag on me and ask when I’m gonna explode on someone since I’m always personable even when I’m extremely stressed out. This was the closest encounter I’ve had to a complete nuclear meltdown.

The call came in one afternoon. The caller gave his name and stated that he was unable to connect to the internet. Pretty standard stuff, I assumed that it would be a quick call and that it would go just peachy. I assumed wrong.

The name didn’t pull up any accounts, neither did the phone number they were calling from. Immediately proceeding, they refused to give me any additional information. I was able to pull up accounts with a plethora of different data sources, whether its an account number, a phone number from the account, a name, an address, even the MAC address or serial number from any of their equipment. But they wouldn’t give up anything else, arguing that “you should already have all of this information pulled up when I called in”.

Queue the longest 45 minute phone call of my entire life.

Forty. Five. Minutes. They screamed at me for the rest of the entire phone call. If I had to guess if I ever met a legitimate certified psychopath, this caller would be the one. And call center rules were firm – you can’t hang up on the customer. Ever.

Every expletive you can think of, they threw it at me. They swore at me personally in every sentence. They insulted me. They threatened me. You would have thought I walked into their house and shot their dog with the way they were acting. No amount of training could prepare me for this call, no matter how many times the instructors claimed “the callers are just mad at the service disruption, not you personally”. This felt personal.

But I kept my cool. Internally I felt like a volcano about to explode to the tune of Magalovania, but on the outside I treated them as nicely as any other caller that rang though. My heart was probably pumping at 300 BPM that day, and adrenaline shot through every vein in my body. But I couldn’t break, my career depended on it.

After 30 minutes of pure verbal abuse they finally calmed down enough to provide me with their MAC address. I pulled up their account and discovered they were behind on their payments by SIX MONTHS. Not only were they scheduled to go to collections soon, a technician was dispatched to their house the day before to disconnect their line from the tap. The notes were filled with notations such as “Abusive caller, escalated to supervisor” and “Extremely rude, customer refused troubleshooting”. If only I was so lucky to transfer, my sup and leads were all in a team meeting to promote employee morale.

When I informed them it was due to the bill being unpaid they blew up again. I put them on mute and threw the headset on my desk. I could hear them screaming even though my volume wasn’t exceptionally loud. When I finally put the microphone back on, they gave me an ultimatum- “You have three minutes to tell me exactly what you are going to do to get my internet back up or I’m going to $AlternativeISP”.

I watched the clock in silence, hoping they would hang up after 3 minutes and my boss would forgive me. It took 5 minutes before they finally started asking “Hello?” and then I stated that it would be impossible for me to do anything without the account being paid. They began to argue that they couldn’t see how much money they had in their bank account without the internet and that it would be fraud if they overcharged without checking, and then began to directly accuse me of asking them to commit fraud. I reiterated that I couldn’t do anything without the unpaid bill being paid off and that I wouldn’t ask them do anything that is illegal. Eventually they agreed to pay the bill in cash at a local shop and slammed the phone down, hard enough to produce a loud bang before the call ended.

I spent three more months in that job before I was able to transfer out of the company, but that call was always on the back of mind. Thankfully I never dealt with a customer that was nearly as nasty towards me, and every angry caller I dealt with seemed like a breeze in comparison. I did have a panic attack the next day before coming into work and used my last sick day to drive around the county and contemplate things. If it wasn’t for that caller, I’d probably still be there today and wouldn’t have bothered trying moving jobs until I got my degree, let alone pursue industry certifications and actually try to better myself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is just hang in there. Things do get better. Don’t let people get under your skin, and don’t risk jeopardizing your job for some aggressive asshole. If you love your job then don’t change. Helping people out is truly rewarding and feels amazing, and I’ve seen happy CSRs that really loved assisting others every day. But if you ever find yourself in my position, just know that things can definitely improve, so keep your head up!

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